5 Positives/5 Negatives In Saints’ Win Over Panthers
Below are five positives, and also five negatives, to take from the New Orleans Saints’ 34-13 road win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon.
The victory improved the Saints to 1-2 on the season.
1)---Michael Thomas: He had a big day, including a monster first drive, catching 5 passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. Two of his catches were to move the chains on third down, something the Saints struggled to do in the first two games. Scoring early was critical, and Thomas was a big reason for that. On the afternoon, Thomas caught 7 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, his best game of the season.
2)---Cam Jordan: As good as Thomas was on the Saints' opening offensive drive, Jordan was just as good, defensively, the first time out, for the Saints. He had 4 tackles, including a big sack, which forced the Panthers to settle for a field goal, after they drove easily down the field. Carolina had New Orleans off balance on their opening drive, and looked as though they were going to score a touchdown. As bad as the Saints looked, defensively, over the first two weeks, and early on in the Panthers' first drive, they desperately needed someone to step up and make a play. Jordan did that, and then ended up finishing with 7 tackles and a sack.
3)---Offensive Line: Was it a great performance? No. But for the second-consecutive week, this make-shift group got the job done. Playing without both starting tackles, all you can ask from this unit is to keep Drew Brees upright, and give them a chance, which they've done. The team averaged 5.9 yards-per-rush in the first half, and that help set the tone. Larry Warford looked like he played particularly well.
4)---Secondary: After getting shredded over the first two games, the secondary stepped up on Sunday, and did so without cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Sterling Moore, who were out. Who would have thought that? The Panthers had less than 50 passing yards in the first half, which helped the secondary play with more confidence as the game went along. Kenny Vaccaro, Marcus Williams, and P.J. Williams all had interceptions, and only one Carolina receiver (Devin Funchess) had a catch of more than 8 yards. Ken Crawley had a big game, and deserves to be mentioned, after leading the team in tackles, with 9. The secondary played about as well as anyone could have reasonably expected.
5)---Drew Brees: He wasn't perfect either, as he missed a wide open Ted Ginn on a potential touchdown pass in the second quarter, and could have easily thrown a pick-six in the second half, had not Luke Kuechly dropped the ball. Still, Brees finished the game completing 22-of-29 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns, while having a banged-up offensive line playing in front of him, and no Willie Snead, who was completing his suspension, to throw to. Solid performance by the future Hall of Famer.
1)---Clock Management: The Saints completely botched things at the end of the first half, allowing the clock to tick down to seven seconds, after Brees was sacked on second down. They did kick a field goal, but lost a chance to run another play, and possibly score another touchdown, because of the inexcusable mistake. You can't let that happen.
2)---Game Management: I don't know why, up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, you would attempt a 56-yard field goal. Wil Lutz missed, giving the Panthers the football at their own 46-yard line. Ultimately, it didn't hurt them, but that was a bad decision. Punt the ball!
3)---Third Down Efficiency: I'm nit-picking here, because the Saints weren't bad, converting on 6-of-12 third down conversions on Sunday. 50% isn't bad, and certainly an improvement over the first two games, but I still expect more, and should point out that they were only 4-of-10 after their first drive. On a positive note, they did convert 50% of their chances against a defense which had not allowed a touchdown in their first two games, while playing without a pivotal play, in Snead, who is incredibly important in third down plays.
4)---Austin Carr: He was inactive, again, and it looks like any thought that he may be able to come in and help in Snead's absence was just that, a thought. Snead returns next week, and Carr's chances of getting on the field are minimal. Carr not seeing any playing time doesn't hurt the Saints as a whole, but I was hoping maybe they had picked-up a diamond in the rough type of player.
5)---It Is Only One Game: As good as the Saints looked on Sunday, it is only one game. They're 1-2, and in my opinion, absolutely have to defeat the Dolphins in London on Sunday to have a shot at making the playoffs this year. Keep in mind, this organization is 22-29 over their last 51 games, and 23-31 over their last 54. We've seen them play well before, but they haven't been able to consistently follow up on it. It was a good win, and a performance to build upon, but there still are plenty of concerns.